A power of attorney is a multipurpose estate planning tool that allows someone you choose to handle some or all of your affairs. The person signing and executing the power of attorney is now as the “principal.” The person chosen and authorized to act on the principal’s behalf is called the “agent” or “attorney-in-fact.”
A “Durable” power of attorney is a special type of power of attorney that continues to operate even after the principal becomes incapacitated. A durable power of attorney can also be drafted so that it does not actually become effective until the principal becomes incapacitated.
Benefits of a durable power of attorney.
The benefit of a durable power of attorney is that it allows you to decide now who you want to make decisions and act on your behalf in the future, rather than have a judge making that decision for you later. The agent you choose will be able to step right into your shoes, if the time comes, and make the important healthcare decisions that are necessary, without going through a lengthy court proceeding. If you do not have a durable power of attorney, the court will most likely appoint a guardian or conservator. Those proceedings can be expensive and time-consuming.
Another benefit of a durable power of attorney is that you have the opportunity to discuss your future plans and wishes with your family members now, while you are still able to do so. This means you can discuss what your expectations are wishes are for future healthcare and/or life-saving measures, in the unfortunate event that you become incapacitated for whatever reason. A well-drafted durable power of attorney will eliminate the need for your family to argue and debate over decisions regarding your healthcare. Instead, your wishes are in writing in a legal document, which is the best evidence of your intent. This can go a long way to curbing family disputes.
You May Want to Include a Living Will.
In addition to a Durable Power of Attorney for Healthcare, you can also create a living will. This type of document is simply a written statement of the type of medical treatment you want or don’t want performed if you become incapacitated and no longer able to consent to treatment. Despite the name, a living will bears no relation to a conventional will used to leave property to others at death. In some states, living will and a durable power of attorney for healthcare are combined into a single document, sometimes referred to as an Advance directive.” You can use your living will to say as much or as little as you wish about the kind of health care you want to receive.
Essentially, having a durable power of attorney provides peace of mind for all involved. Executing a power of attorney lessens the burden on your family, who would otherwise be required to petition the court for the authority to perform basic tasks on your behalf, if you become incompetent. Taking care of this in advance, can be a great comfort to your family. Which of these many benefits will be most important to you depends on your particular situation.